It is a privilege to be your Guest Speaker for this year's Forum. I take delight in welcoming you, Your Ladyship, to my Kingdom, particularly, this being your first trip here since your elevation to the High Office of Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana. I recall with fond memories in December 2007, when your predecessor, Her Ladyship Georgina Theodora Wood, held her maiden Chief Justice’s forum in Kumasi similar to what is happening today.
At the 2007 forum, I called for deliberate efforts to institute pro-active policies and programmes that would ensure the total independence of the Judiciary in the performance of its duties. I decried the situation where the Judiciary depended on the government for resources and funds for its operations and sustenance. I challenged the Judicial Council to be innovative and explore other avenues to source funds to promote its operations and endeavours. I charged the staff of the Judicial Service to uphold honesty, truth and justice in the discharge of their duties to enhance the rule of law and the nation's democratic process.
Your Ladyship, I expressed these concerns largely on the background of a presentation on very disturbing images of the poor state of courts in the country particularly in my Kingdom. From the images in the presentations that I see today, we have come a long way, but not far enough. There is a tendency of talking the talk but not always walking the walk.
I have observed with admiration and commendation that the Judicial Service has since the last Forum in Kumasi created a Works Department with core units dedicated to the management of hard and soft facilities. It is therefore not surprising that we are seeing some very modern court and residential structures. I am particularly happy that some creativity is applied to the soft facilities. This is a novelty and a positive development.
The Court of Appeal Complex, with its modern facilities is equally refreshing and we are proud to have it located in Kumasi. I have also noted the new High Court in Obuasi, and the District Court in Asante Mampong. However, the undue delay of some construction projects particularly in the Ashanti Region is worrying, typically, the redevelopment of some old residential bungalows at Danyame into modern facilities which started in 2011.
We need more concrete results on the ground. We must take individual and organizational responsibility for ensuring that we put in places the right structures and systems to enhance access to justice.
It goes without saying that all these improvements require money. The irony is that while the courts are seriously engaged in some types of money making ventures in the form of fines and fees imposed, the Judiciary is denied the wherewithal with which to implement the reforms on physical structures which are so badly needed. The people of our country and all beneficiaries for whom the courts are operated no doubt support the special appeal to the Government to allow the Judiciary to spend one hundred per cent of the Internally Generated Funds (popularly called IGF) that come from court operations for the obvious reason that the funds will support the Judiciary in its efforts to improve the system which will be for the benefit of all of us.
Your Ladyship, it is obvious that the theme for this year’s forum is centred on the quality of justice. Considering recent happenings in the Judiciary and the courts, a better theme could not have been selected.
Quality justice is an essential component of the rule of law. By convention, judicial activity is assessed by reference to the inherent quality of judicial decisions, namely the quality of their reasoning and the expedition with which those decisions are delivered.
I have learnt that quality is an established element in the system of court management and control. Countries such as Sweden and Netherlands have developed and implemented quality management systems to improve judicial quality which deserve to be emulated.
The reality of life is that justice should always be regarded as being administered on behalf of the people of this country. The 1992 constitution, Article 125 emphasizes this by the provision in Article 125(1) which states that:
“Justice emanates from the people and shall be administered in the name of the Republic by the judiciary ….”
The people on whose behalf you are administering justice must always be taken into account.
No matter what view is held of judges, it cannot be denied that the Judiciary has no control over how we feel or what ought not to be felt, what to perceive and what ought not to be perceived, what to hear or what ought not to be heard and what to believe and what ought not to be believed. But there are reasonable standards that all right thinking people are expected to exhibit.
The quality of justice is what citizens feel out of litigation, their wishes and their aspirations. The quality of justice cannot be considered in the abstract. It must necessarily be related to the people for whom justice is delivered. We are at the receiving end for which justice is intended to serve. It is the standard of the beneficiaries of justice that the quality is measured. Whether what the judge does in his justice delivery functions is qualitative or not is determined by us, the beneficiaries.
In this Forum, it is expected that time will be devoted to developing benchmarks for the Bench. Whatever benchmarks you develop should largely take into account the responsiveness of your functions to the needs, requirements and expectations of the consumers who are the people of this country or the court users. In this exercise, you are to bear in mind that the court users are external evaluators of what you do in the performance of your functions.
To ignore us amounts to failure to deliver justice because you cannot judge yourselves. Whatever benchmarks you establish in pursuit of quality justice, prominence should be given to the expeditious disposal of cases for “Justice delayed is justice denied”.
If someone steals a goat and is fined GHS 5,000.00, and additionally slapped with a jail term, how can people invade a courtroom, over power the security, release suspects and put the life of the judge and staff in danger, and as their punishment they are fined only GHS 1,800 and are discharged. Has justice been served and if even it has been served the question may be asked: whether the quality of justice was served: Quality justice for whom?
If such judgments come from the courts, how can you prevent people from questioning the quality of justice delivered by our judges? Unfortunately for you, it takes only one case or very few cases for the quality of justice that you profess to deliver to be thrown to the wind. As you are all aware, the case under reference took place in this capital where this year’s forum takes place and cannot be ignored.
I hope and pray that by the end of this Forum, the exact ramifications of quality justice will be more meaningfully appreciated so that we can all be witnesses to the realization of the theme of “Quality judges delivering quality judgments”
May I once again welcome all of you to the Garden City and wish you fruitful deliberations.
OTUMFUO OSEI TUTU II